Southern Religion

Evangelism through the eye of a needle

Christians who use the “Camel Method” in an attempt to evangelize Muslims refer to God as Allah, a practice that has caused a great deal of controversy, but that’s not the only reason some oppose it.

The strategy, in which a Christian uses the Quran to talk to a Muslim about Jesus, was highlighted in a June 2007 article in the Christian Index, the state Baptist newspaper in Georgia. Jerry Rankin, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention‘s International Mission Board, talked about the Camel Method, which his organization promotes.

The Index article mentions several objections to the method, including Christians using the name Allah for God. Some think that using that term means that missionaries are affirming the Muslim view of Allah, according to the article.

Rankin calls that notion preposterous.

“In a cross-cultural witness you use the language of the people and you use whatever terminology they have for God.”

Some Muslims take great offense at Christians using Allah to refer to God. Violence broke out in Malaysia when a judge ruled that Christians there could continue the practice.

Another criticism of the Camel Method is that it does not require Muslims who become Christians to renounce their Muslim identity, suggesting that they continue to view God and Christ through a Muslim worldview.

“The Camel Method does not advocate that, but advocates being Christian while retaining your ethnic identity in that Muslim culture,” Rankin said.

The Index article prompted a letter from David Mills, assistant professor of evangelism and associate dean for applied ministries at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

Mills compared the Camel Method to how he said Mormons use the Bible when talking with their neighbors.

“The Mormon does not believe it, but he knows the neighbor does, so he portrays himself as a Bible believer.”

Mills encouraged missionaries to forgo the Camel Method and instead “use some of the superior methods of Muslim evangelism our seminaries offer.”

Mills’ letter led to a “clarification” from IMB executive vice president Clyde Meador.

“Helping a Muslim to see that his own book tells him that he should be interested in Christ is often an effective way of opening the door to a gospel witness. It is a proven method that has opened the door to Truth to untold numbers of Muslims in many parts of the world, and continues to do so today.”

Mike Morris, a Baptist blogger in Tennessee, used the Camel Method in a conversation with a Muslim imam, who is an Islamic leader. The imam, who obviously knew his religion, didn’t respond as literature for the evangelism strategy suggested a Muslim might.

For example, the Camel Method suggests talking about a Muslim festival Korbani Eid, which includes a sacrifice as a way of beginning a conversation about the New Testament concept of salvation. The imam said, however, that the festival was about obedience rather than a transfer of guilt.

“For solid, well-trained Muslims such as the imam, the festival cannot be utilized as a bridge to the Christian understanding of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross,” Morris said.

Bart Barber, another Baptist blogger, has written a number of posts that deal with the Camel Method. (A list can be found here.) Barber believes the strategy violates the IMB’s own guidelines.

In the Christian Index article, Rankin reveals the Camel Method’s origin.

“This is not a method of witness that we have contrived in order to reach Muslims. It is something that Muslim-background believers were using effectively to share their faith within their Muslim communities.”

But a strategy that works well for former Muslims with an established level of trust can seem downright deceitful when practiced by Christians without that background.

The Camel Method’s web site has four endorsements of the strategy, including one from David Garrison, who edited a workshop based on the method:

Every great work of God provokes a predictable backlash from Satan, as his domain is threatened. The Camel method has been no exception.

Neither the Camel Method’s supporters nor its detractors have acted in a manner that indicates they’re in league with the devil. But the method itself is the wrong way to accomplish what well-meaning people believe is the right thing.


January 19, 2010 - Posted by | Religion, SBC | , ,

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